Powers Unfiltered

An entrepreneur’s journey into grid computing and partnering with Microsoft, by John Powers

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Two Weeks Later

January 23rd, 2008 · 3 Comments

For the folks following our Adventures in Partnerland, here’s an update.

About two weeks ago, I wrote a post here about how the persistent technical difficulties with the Microsoft Partner Program Web site (partners.microsoft.com) had spilled over from every-day inconvenience to genuine negative impact on our relations with our customers. I howled, because I think Microsoft (and the Partner Program in particular) can do better — the people in that group are really great (I know dozens of them, and can’t think of one that hasn’t left a positive impression), yet the systems have been substandard for years.

My post apparently set off a frenzy of activity. I called out executives by name, and judging by the little traffic tracer I use (Statcounter rocks by the way) that got somebody’s attention in Redmond, and that somebody sent around a very-widely-read email, and Powersunfiltered had its all-time highest traffic day — almost all from Microsoft (and it’s PR agency — hello Waggener Edstrom readers and welcome!).

And then comments came in from other partners who were having the same (or similar) experiences — but not a word from Microsoft. After four days I got a two-line email (entirely unofficial, from outside the Partner group) from a friend at Microsoft who said that my post “got some attention here,” and he had heard that “a fix” for the Partner Web site was in the works — that was the extent of Microsoft’s response.

Not long thereafter, something was indeed fixed, our references were approved, and I renewed our Gold Certified Partner status without further incident. (And — thank you, sincerely, to those who fixed whatever was broken.)

Microsoft’s public reaction, as far as I can tell, was none whatsoever.  No comments here, no comments on other blogs reporting the same problem (like this one), no postings of their own that I could find.  The Partner group’s silence on persistent problems  faced by multiple partners seems like a missed opportunity, and callers from within Microsoft have told me the same. They (and I) can’t tell what the Partner group is thinking:

  • a. Some malcontent overreacted, but to quiet things down we stayed up late, made a patch, and rebooted some servers, so now everything is ok; or
  • b. There’s good reason to look at how the Partner Program systems and processes are supporting the needs of Microsoft and its partners, and to put some brainpower into reworking those systems; or
  • c. Something else entirely.

As for what’s next, well, if the Partner Program wants to engage, I’m game — but in the meantime, I’m moving on.  Our problem is fixed (thank you again), an opportunity for constructive public dialog appears to have passed (if I misplayed this, so be it), and I have work to do — and more positive things to write about.

Tags: Customer Service · Partnering with Microsoft

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Todd Weatherby // Jan 26, 2008 at 3:01 am

    John…, I’m responsible for the Microsoft Partner Portal. I’m the GM of Product Management working directly for Allison Watson.

    I’m reaching out to you and others to open the discussion about the very real issues raised in your recent posts. Our mission is to support your profitable growth, and anything that slows you down is not acceptable.

    Let me start by saying that all of us here apologize for recent problems with our Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) re-enrollment process that have taken up your valuable time and also inconvenienced your customers.

    We continue to invest in our on-line resources for our partners and customers worldwide. During 2007 we made several enhancements including a major release on November 30th. In early January, we realized we had some serious performance problems in some very specific steps in the enrollment process (eg. customer reference processing).

    Since detecting the problem, we’ve been running 24×7 triage/test/fix cycles. We also added call center staff and extended hours of service to help partners work through enrollment and maintain their access to their benefits. We’ve made some fixes that have yielded improvement. We have more to do.

    While parts of the enrollment process have been rough for some, partners have been using resources on the Microsoft Partner Portal in record numbers without problems, including online training, marketing and sales resources.

    We continue to monitor system performance closely 24×7 worldwide. Status messages are being kept up to date on the site. Our Regional Support Centers are standing by to help partners.

    All of us at Microsoft sincerely value your partnership. We will continue to improve and work hard to earn your trust. Feel free to send me email directly at TODDKW@Microsoft.com . Thanks, Todd

  • 2 john // Jan 27, 2008 at 2:02 am

    Todd —
    Delighted to hear from you; thanks for your detailed response.
    I’m even more delighted that you want to “open the discussion” about the issues raised here; I’ll be interested to see where that leads.
    More soon.

  • 3 Powers Unfiltered » Blog Archive » Five Suggested Technical Improvements for the Microsoft Partner Web Site // Jan 29, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    […] In the spirit of Todd Weatherby’s comments about opening a dialog regarding the Microsoft Partner Program Web Site, here are five technical things Microsoft could do to improve interactions with partners and customers.  I (and other partners) have put forward some more radical ideas for redesign of partner program policies and tools, but let’s start with things that could be done relatively quickly, without major surgery: 1. Enable better search tools on all parts of partners.microsoft.com. Microsoft Live Search is actually getting pretty good. The quality of search results is usually (not always) on par with Google. The UI is simple, the search engine is fast, it’s reasonably comprehensive, and it’s relatively good at ranking results. Now step into partnerland, and you’d never know you were dealing with the same company. Try to search for a Microsoft partner interested in teaming with us to market and sell to hedge funds — go ahead, I’ll wait. The search tools are limited by the fields imagined by the designers of each application lurking behind partner.microsoft.com. The way the rest of the world (including large chunks of Microsoft) addressed this years ago was with better free text search tools (like Live Search). More recently, much of the rest of the world has discovered the value of tagging, which allows users to decide on the importance of words and phrases to help others find their content. (And yes, this example is from Channel Builder, but similar restrictions limit the value of other applications as well.) […]

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